Liverpool under-21s were left frustrated in the Premier League International Cup, as they could only manage a goalless draw against 10-man SC Braga.
Liverpool U21s 0-0 SC Braga U21s
PL International Cup, AXA Training Centre
January 18, 2023
Liverpool played in a more orthodox 4-3-3 formation than in their win over PSG last Wednesday.
Billy Koumetio again started following his return from a loan at Austria Wien, however his centre-back partner, Jarell Quansah, was missing amid speculation over a move of his own.
Instead, Oludare Olufunwa shifted across to centre-back while Lee Jonas played to his right and Luke Chambers dropped to left-back.
Despite freezing temperatures, tempers boiled over quickly when Diogo Fonseca was sent off for scrapping with Bobby Clark after the pair challenged for the ball.
Fortunately for Liverpool, Clark only saw yellow for his part in the scuffle.
As a result, Liverpool began to dominate and the midfield controlled most of the game, with Clark pushing further forward than Dominic Corness and Luca Stephenson.
Despite nearly all of the play taking place in the Braga half, it was the visitors who had the best chance of the first period, five minutes before half-time.
A great through ball got Roger Fernandes in behind, only to be thwarted by goalkeeper Fabian Mrozek, who saved with an outstretched leg after rapidly closing the gap between himself and the attacker.
The majority of Liverpool’s threat came down the left as Chambers, Clark and James Norris combined on several occasions to get the ball in the box.
This continued after the break, with the young Reds playing nice football in midfield.
Once into the final third, though, it was a different story, as Braga consistently surrounded the man in possession preventing shooting chances.
HT: Liverpool U21s 0-0 Braga U21s
His replacement was Max Woltman, who has just returned from a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers, and the 19-year-old should have made an instant impact.
A Liverpool attack down the left resulted in the ball being clipped across the box to Woltman, who was free inside the six-yard box.
The forward couldn’t keep his cool, though, and volleyed high over the bar.
From nothing, Braga almost took the lead when Dinis Pinto beat Jonas for pace then fired a powerful shot across goal that struck the crossbar before bouncing to safety.
Clark was brought off just before the hour mark for Oakley Cannonier, and soon after Olufunwa was booked for pushing Miguel Vilela in the chest – the Braga left-back had been culpable for a couple of late challenges.
Ten minutes from time Norris, who was arguably Liverpool’s brightest spark in the game, made way for Tommy Pilling to make his debut at U21 level.
As the half went on, the shots from distance increased but the quality didn’t and, in the end, Lewtas’ side held on through some nervy moments at the death.
The draw leaves the Reds second after three games in their group, two points behind Everton.
Liverpool U21s: Mrozek; Jonas, Olufunwa, Koumetio, Chambers; Stephenson, Corness, Clark (Cannonier 59′); Frauendorf (Woltman 46′), Norris (Pilling 81′), Musialowski
Subs not used: Kelly, Miles